1000 Cranes – a short story



by Donna A. Leahey

Photo by Robert K. Leahey © 2010

Photo by Robert K. Leahey © 2010

Steve set his newly folded crane on the craft table, examined it, and then adjusted the angle of the head. The intricate pink on red pattern had turned into something new and unique once folded into the crane, with the wings darkening from pink to red and the beak a near solid pink.

It couldn’t have worked out more perfectly. He’d picked the paper because Dana would like it.

I just want her to be happy,” he whispered out loud.

His lovely wife had been through so much pain, from miscarriages to deaths in the family, a car accident… She used to have such a pretty smile, an infectious laugh, but he couldn’t remember the last time she’d done either. He opened his journal and flipped past page after page. The last page was only half filled, and he ran his pen down the list:

996 Black and white stripes, large

997 Metallic blue, medium

998 Solid green, medium

999 Purple with gold paisley pattern, medium


I wish for her to be happy,” he whispered.

He set the pen to paper next to the number 1000, but before he could write, he gasped. It felt like a mule had just kicked him in the chest. He crumpled to the floor, staring up at the ceiling fan’s gently sweeping blades.

And he died.


Dana approached the counter clutching a thick packet of brightly colored paper. Her therapist wanted her to take up a hobby. She suspected Dr. Oberloh wouldn’t be pleased to learn she’d taken up Steve’s hobby of origami, but still… it was a hobby.

Can I help you?” said the man behind the counter, then his face split into a happy and welcoming smile. “Dana! Hi, already back for more? You’ve got to be halfway to your 1000 cranes already.”

Not even close,” she said. The craft store’s owner, Fred Gann, was a nice looking man of about her own age, with dark greying hair receding slightly from his hairline, blue eyes, and a wide, mobile mouth. He was friendly and chatty and she enjoyed talking with him. “I wasted at least half the last pack. I’m so bad at this.”

He shook his head. “You’re being too hard on yourself. No one’s first try is perfect.”

Maybe not, but it ought to be getting better by the 100th try!”

He laughed. “They’re wonderful. I know they are. You made them.”

She let out a nervous laugh, never entirely sure if he was flirting with her or not. It had been over a year since Steve’s heart attack. She shouldn’t feel guilty if a nice man flirted with her.

She shoved her bank card at him and then bolted from the store with her purchase. Once home, she unwrapped the package and rifled through it, sniffing the delightful odor of fresh paper. She settled in at Steve’s craft table, smiled at the tiny red and pink crane she’d lovingly set on the nearby shelf atop his craft journal. It seemed so unfair he never finished his 1000th crane, so she was going to do it for him. She opened her own craft journal and flipped through the first few pages.

379 White, black, and yellow, med

380 bright yellow, med

381 blue, green, and white, large


She leafed through her new package of paper and selected a lovely variegated pattern of red, purple and blue and began to fold. She remembered when Steve tried to teach her to fold, but she wasn’t interested. She sat and listened to him, though.

It’s so relaxing, my love,” he’d told her. “You can just concentrate on the folds, on the patterns, and the rest of the world just goes away. I think you’d like it.”

You’re always trying to get me to do stuff, Steve.”

Because I love you and I want you to be happy.”

She’d smiled at him but said nothing.

I get a wish when I make 1000 of them. What do you think I should wish for?” he asked.

What would you want?”

Ten million dollars, world peace, and a Harley.”

That’s three things,” she told him.

Well then… I’d wish for you to be happy.”

He’d been right, though, she did enjoy origami. While concentrating on making the folds even, with nice and crisp creases, she didn’t think about all the things that had made her so sad. When she finished a crane and it was pretty, she loved the way it made her feel.


Ooooh, you’re trying smaller paper!” Fred smiled. “You must be getting really good.”

I think I’m getting better,” she answered.

I’d love to see them sometime,” he said.

She smiled and offered her bank card.

734 Teal and gold pattern, small

735 Orange and white, small

736 Black and red stripes, small



She’d timed it out carefully, so she would hit 1000 on the anniversary of Steve’s death. Unfortunately, she hadn’t calculated the amount of paper she would need, so she rushed back to the craft store.

Hi Fred!” She shivered in the cold. “I need something small, and I want there to be a black and gold in there somewhere.”

I know just the paper for you!”Fred reached under the counter. “To tell the truth, I’ve been holding it for you. It’s special and hard to get. I wanted to make sure you got some of it.” He offered her the small cellophane wrapped package.

It’s beautiful!” she exclaimed. Right on top was the perfect paper, with a variegated black to gold pattern extending from corner to corner. “What do I owe you?”

I know what today is, Dana. No charge for you.”

You remembered?”

He nodded. “Yeah, I remembered. You take that as a gift from me. I just… I want you to be happy.”

She smiled and felt tears well up in her eyes. “Thank you, Fred. How thoughtful.”


She settled down at the craft table and set the lovely piece of black and gold paper aside. Steve would have loved that one. She selected instead a bright green and yellow striped sheet. The resulting crane was bright and festive. She turned it back and forth, proudly, thinking of how much Steve would have liked it. She noted it in her journal, then took the next sheet, deep red paper with a pink design. She loved it. She began to fold, carefully judging angles, precisely pressing creases. When she was done, she wrote into her journal:

997 black, grey, white, medium

998 green and yellow, small

999 red and pink, small


She smiled at the way the pattern worked on the tiny crane – the wings fading to red tips, the beak bright pink. She wrinkled her brow at it and her gaze flicked up to the last crane Steve had made. They were nearly identical.

She reverently lifted down Steve’s craft journal with the tiny red and pink crane on top and read:

997 Metallic blue, medium

998 Solid green, medium

999 Purple with gold paisley pattern, medium


She frowned thoughtfully and flipped back through the pages. Page after page she read, but never once did he list a red and pink crane. She flipped back to the last page and held Steve’s little red and pink crane on the palm of her hand.

His voice spoke in her head, “I just want you to be happy.”

She placed the tiny pink and red crane right on top of the number 1000 in Steve’s journal and smiled.

Turning back, she pinched the black and gold paper between her fingers and then began to fold. The pattern came easy to her, fold, crease, unfold, turn, fold, crease…

The tiny black and gold crane set on her palm. It reminded her so much of Steve, but she wouldn’t cry for him anymore because he wanted her to be happy. She stood and placed her own craft journal next to Steve’s. Rather than write it down, she set the lovely black and gold gold crane atop the number 1000.


Six pm was dark and chilly, but she waited outside the craft store until Fred stepped outside and locked the door.

Hi, Fred,” she said.

Oh!” he was startled. “Oh, Dana. Hi.” He smiled, a broad friendly smile that transformed his plain and simple face into something special.

So… care to join me for some pizza?” she asked.

He lifted his brows, surprised, but then his friendly smile transformed into something warmer, just for her. “You want to get pizza with me?” he asked.

“It would make me happy.”


© 2013 Donna A. Leahey


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